The fox that predated the wrong nest…

I miss You Forgot the Birds – remember them? They were set up by grouse shooters, notably old Harrovian city trader Crispin Odey (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), to have a go at the RSPB because the RSPB was occasionally mentioning the problems associated with driven grouse shooting. At least you knew where you were with YFTB, the PR expert they hired, Ian Gregory, has been perfectly open about the fact that he was hired to damage the RSPB by people who didn’t like them (maybe feared them)( see here and here).

And yes, the moribund YFTB website still has a cracking image of a male Montagu’s Harrier and what looks like a Northern Harrier on its Hen Harrier page – knowledge of birds has never been a strong point amongst grouse shooters.

The new kid on the block (as mentioned by me here) is the Campaign for Protection of Moorland Communities (C4PMC). They are the ones who tried to make out that Stephen Moss thought that all birds of prey are doing well in Britain to which Stephen responded ‘I’m incensed that the shooting lobby have twisted my words‘.

The C4PMC are about as accurate on birds, actually on life in general it seems to me, as YFTB ever were – do you think they might be related?

Their latest thing is this:

https://www.c4pmc.co.uk/post/reports-emerge-of-nine-hen-harriers-predated-by-a-fox-on-rspb-s-bowland-reserve?fbclid=IwAR2o0xXGT0fJeIfbMvNlvg6nOm6nodyl5ART3Q5S2KvBV-Zro1cDv72d-gQ

Well, the striking thing about this headline is that the RSPB does not have a reserve in Bowland so it will be quite difficult to locate this ex-nest, even though C4PMC claim that this happened on the RSPB’s ‘flagship reserve’. Not just any old non-existent nature reserve but a non-existent flagship nature reserve!

The report is worth a read as an amusing start to your day. Seven recently-fledged chicks were predated by a fox apparently – recently fledged? Are you sure it wasn’t by a flying fox then? I understand that a Hen Harrier nest was predated recently in Bowland, probably by a fox.

Apparently birds of prey ‘in fact die overwhelmingly of predation and other causes’ – well that has to be true. People die overwhelmingly of cyanide poisoning and other causes, it’s just that the other causes add up to almost 100% of deaths. Of course birds of prey are predated, and Hen Harriers, being ground nesters are susceptible to predation rather more than cliff-nesting species, that’s certainly true. Yep, in nature animals get eaten by other animals, it happens in my garden all the time – all those caterpillars that those vicious Blue Tits fed to their young before they fledged from our garden nest box!

It’s clear that C4PMC don’t like the RSPB and are very worried about foxes, but if this nest wasn’t located on an RSPB flagship nature reserve where was it? It was located on an area, I am told, which has a gamekeeper. In fact this will be one of the nests that Amanda Anderson said last week was one of the ‘record-breaking’ 12 nests on grouse moors this year. It seems as if there is a simple rule here, while a Hen Harrier nest is successful Amanda and the Moorland Association claim it as a grouse moor nest but if it fails for any reason then C4PMC claim it as an RSPB nest. And Natural England play their part by not disclosing failed Hen Harrier nests on grouse moors too.

C4PMC claim that grouse moors are good and that the RSPB is bad on the basis of a failed nest on a keepered moor not owned or managed by the RSPB?

We shouldn’t expect the grouse moor industry to be consistent – they probably don’t care that C4PMC contradicts the Moorland Association. Amanda can get headlines saying one thing and then C4PMC can snipe at the RSPB using ‘reports’ that contradict the Moorland Association line but who cares? The press don’t look into the facts of these matters and our statutory agency, Natural England, has its own long track record of secrecy and lack of clarity and openness on Hen Harrier matters. The public? Well, they won’t care about the details and might well throw up their hands and say ‘Some people say one thing, others say another. I don’t know what’s happening‘.

But this blog will keep picking away at the distortions of the truth on this subject.

But C4PMC have a more amusing though no more accurate side to them. While having a go at me a while ago they said I lived in a swanky house! You could hear the guffaws from our red-brick late-Victorian semi all along the street after that.

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17 Replies to “The fox that predated the wrong nest…”

  1. The last paragraph gives them away. They don't really care about the hen harriers, it's really class envy. You and your swanky house!

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  2. Haven't read their article yet but Mark, your piece has made me chortle, in preparation for doing the chicken-feeding and watering and barn owl box checking. Thank you for setting my day up nicely

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  3. Aren't these the crowd of ne'er do wells that picketed the Chris Packham Talk at the Royal Hall in Harrogate?
    Frankly I don't believe a word any of the Grouse moor cabal/ coven say, particularly when it comes to Hen Harriers. A bird they have by all accounts been attempting to eradicate from grouse moors ( and everywhere else). I wonder who funds them?

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  4. I appreciate I’m being a little pedantic here but I would just like to offer a small point, hopefully without too many subsequent ‘dislikes’. To ‘predate’ relates to something occurring before something else ,eg King Alfred’s reign predated that of Queen Elizabeth I. So he predated her but as far as I know he didn’t eat her. I was taken to task on this point some years ago by a University lecturer when I used the verb ‘predate’ in a conversation about foxes and he informed me that predators ‘prey’ upon other animals and that ‘Predator’ and predation’ are nouns which do not have a verb in common English usage.
    But hey, it’s a small point and certainly not a criticism. Have a great day and keep up the brilliant work. Cheers!

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    1. Why is that pedants make such a fuss about 'correct' English but so often seem to know little about the actual language, and are unaware that the meanings of words evolve over time? Predate used in this way is a perfectly good verb. It is also pronounced differently to the time-related meanings.

      From the OED definition of 'predate':
      1. transitive. To act as a predator of; to catch and eat (prey). Chiefly in passive. [examples dating back to 1941]
      2. intransitive. To act as a predator. [examples dating back to 1974]

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      1. I am not a ‘pedant’, nor was I making a ‘fuss’ and I believe I have a reasonable command of the English language.

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  5. I read the article last night , as an insult to the gamekeeper concerned, who, like many of his
    profession will be spending every waking hour at this time of year , tracking down any litters
    of cubs they might have missed earlier (it does happen), or quite likely appeared from elsewhere.
    Nonsense.

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    1. Aye the continual senseless slaughter of animals and birds all so a few rich people can kill birds. What a worthwhile occupation that is!

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  6. Ludicrous though the the claims made by C4PMC are, we should be very cautious about dismissing this group as a bunch of clowns about whom we don't need to worry. The well-informed readership of this blog can see this and other claims by the group for the nonsense that they are but amongst less knowledgeable groups they are nevertheless able to gain traction if not vigorously rebuffed. The less knowledgeable will include many MPs and other people of influence, I am afraid.

    As Mark says, we must continue to pick away at the distortions and do so wherever we can.

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  7. Bill Kusiar's point about "predate" brings back memories of Adam Watson, a distinguished upland ecologist who died recently. Adam was a perceptive and very critical anonymous reviewer of several scientific papers I had submitted to journals. Except that the anonymity (required by the journal) didn't really work in Adam's case. That is because, whenever I wrote "predate", he struck it out and wrote "NO! depredate!". Everyone knew that no-one else did that.

    Adam's most recent (posthumous) achievement was the role his research (with Jerry Wilson) played in the restriction on culling of mountain hares in Scotland. See

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8ZVOmPc88Y

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    1. We should, of course, follow the science on this point of etymology. The linked 2007 article from the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America tells the story: https://bit.ly/2NoYaI9 (abbreviated because the full link is long). I was surprised that the first use of 'predator' is as recent as 1922, making it only twice as old as the back-formation 'predate'. I'd guess that if there is a more recent OED update it will show 'predate' as gaining further ground.

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  8. Thanks for that update, Mark. At the time (yesterday) I had no other knowledge of this act of predation, but I pointed out in a civilised to and fro on the Facebook page that this was natural, etc. etc. I'd love to point out that this nest wasn’t located on an RSPB flagship nature reserve and was one of the nests that Amanda Anderson said last week was one of the ‘record-breaking’ 12 nests on grouse moors this year. But I can't because they have blocked me!

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    1. They're not open to debate with different points of view then Andy. The closed mind is in my experience an inactive mind.
      We will no doubt hear the truth of what has happened towards the end of the breeding season because unlike NearlyNatural England and Moorland Attrition RSPB will be honest (as they always are) about the breeding statistics.
      If foxes have been involved it is a keeper responsibility not RSPB.

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  9. It will be interesting to see how MA treat these nests in their end of year statement. Surely now they will not be able to count as 'grouse moor' nests under even the most tortuous of definitions.

    This small group, representing the most intensive form of shooting, regularly put out statements that are full of incoherent nonsense. The result is, they are dragging shooting in general (because many people will not distinguish between the different types) into the gutter. We saw a similar thing happen recently with the mountain hare when the excesses of a few big estates resulted in a change in legislation that has damaged sustainable shooting.

    Is it a perceived need to stick together than means these groups are hardly ever held to account by more sustainable shooters? How much irrevocable damage will they have to do to the sport as a whole before law abiding, sustainable shooters wake up to the threat? We all now know that driven grouse shooting is on it's way out - the only argument being how long it will take. The longer it takes, the more other shooting interests will be dragged down in the process.

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  10. An excellent skewering Mark, thank you for a great read. The problem of course is the one in your antepenultimate para. C4PMC and the rest don't aim to convince anyone, just to create confusion: they are classic merchants of doubt. That's why it's important to keep debunking them.

    Their lies do seem to becoming more brazen. I take that as a good sign - that they are more panicked than they were, and it has the advantage of making them look more obviously ridiculous. I'm now waiting for hordes of ravenous mountain hares to start advancing on Edinburgh having eaten every last commercial conifer plantation in Scotland.

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  11. Thought the rspb had been working in partnership with United utilities for the last 30 years at Bowland. Last year the rspb was proud to announce that 22 chicks had fledged at Bowland. What is the update on this year?

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